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HUMANISTIC EDUCATION                  169

3. THE BEGINNINGS OF HUMANISTIC EDUCATION IN THE
NORTH

The renaissance of Northern Europe, which may be dated
roughly from 1430 to 1600, was very different from the Italian
renaissance of which it was an offshoot. There was nothing
of the wild exuberance of life that made the Italian cities the
breeding places of genius, nothing of the expansive interest in
nature and in humanity that produced such men as Michel
Angelo and Leonardo da Vinci, and, till the Reformation at
least, scarcely anything of the vehement assertion of individuality
that characterized every phase of Italian life in the Fourteenth
and Fifteenth Centuries. To begin with, the movement was
exotic, represented by little groups of artists and scholars, who
lived and worked in a certain detachment from their immediate
environment and drew their inspiration directly and indirectly
from contact with their fellows south of the Alps. Yet even
within these limits it had far-reaching effects in nearly every
sphere of human activity, and most of all in scholarship, education
and religion. There were already at work in the slower and more
practical northern mind vague yearnings for new modes of life.
The renaissance came as a mighty quickening force, and set free
imprisoned energies which issued ultimately in distinctive insti-
tutions as great in their own way as the art and literature and
politics of Italy.

We have already noted the commencement of this change in
education. We have seen that as a result of the growing power
of the merchant class in the larger towns the control of the schools
was beginning to pass from the clergy to the laity both in Britain
and in Germany. But though the existence of town schools and
lay teachers was highly significant, there was not as yet any con-
siderable alteration in the general character of education. The
old barren grammatical and rhetorical studies continued to
monopolize the time of the student: the barbarous medieval
Latin continued to be taught and used in indifference to any
considerations of beauty and style. Not till the Fifteenth Century
was drawing to a close and the revival of learning had made head-
way among scholars everywhere, did the schools and universities
begin to respond in any appreciable measure to the changed spirit
of the age.